So here we are – in the age of everything Nicki Minaj, and not too far removed from when it was all about Foxy or Kim. Female rappers have always had a place, but never quite seem to stay in first place. In a male-dominated genre, it seems harder to find a female artist who keeps her street and radio marketability, without being too far left field. R&B seems to give fans more covered ground than rap does; more of those women seem to give off intelligence, modest sexuality, and strength at the same time.
Maybe Hip-Hop should take notes and make a fresh start back to where it began.
For most, the ’80s stood out as a period where ladies went outside their usual box and began to find a voice in rap. Unlike some of the newer generation of ladies in Hip-Hop, they weren’t automatically stuck on all things sex or fashion – they conveyed real messages like their male counterparts. Many may recall Roxanne Shonte’s “Roxanne’s Revenge”, which was a diss to the original “Roxanne Roxanne” record by UTFO. She started a powerful movement for Hip-Hop. Other artists began to surface such as Salt N Pepa, one of rap’s first female crews. They also started out with a response record. In this case it was “The Show Stopper”, which played off of Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick’s uber-classic, “The Show”.
Around the same time, artists peaked in their own way and positioned themselves as lyricists to watch for. They took individual approaches that fans found appealing, simple, and more relatable. Some examples are MC Lyte with the hardcore, pull-no-punches role, and Queen Latifah as the strong, empowered woman. They gave listeners real insight into a woman’s massive potential in rhyming. They were followed by Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott, and Eve, to name a few, all creating different forms of success and originality, while remaining true staples of quality. That formula, as of late, seems harder to come by.
From the beginning, the subject of disrespect was at the forefront. Now, it seems the men don’t have to talk about it; many of the women put it all out there themselves. The times have transformed the thought processes of some female MCs, producing songs that would rather add to the insulting and downgrading, instead of lifting up. A lady naturally gains attention through sex appeal, but its when she speaks, even through verses, that she has the chance to change the opinions of those expecting nothing more from her than what they normally hear and see.
The voices of women can’t be limited to that of a particular artist or group, but the masses shouldn’t get stuck with the usual, cookie-cutter types that often make it to the mainstream. Female MCs who break the mold do exist. The fans are waiting for a real everyday woman with raw talent, minus the typical expectations put on her craft.
The ones they once heard more of. The ones from around the way.
Tawni Fears is a freelance writer and contributor to AllHipHop.com. Follow her on Twitter (@brwnsugaT).